Police arrest suspect in kidnapping of Arkansas girl found in E. - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Police arrest suspect in kidnapping of Arkansas girl found in E. Texas

Posted: Updated:
Thomas Bunievatz (Source: Grayson County Jail) Thomas Bunievatz (Source: Grayson County Jail)
(Source: KLTV Staff) (Source: KLTV Staff)
(KLTV) - A man was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the abduction of an Arkansas girl who was found safe in East Texas.

Thomas Bunievatz, 31, the father of the girl, was arrested in Grayson County, TX. Benton, AR  police say he had permission to visit the child for a short time while visiting Benton. Bunievatz didn't return his daughter in the agreed time and that's when family contacted police.

According to Winnsboro police, their department was contacted Tuesday by detectives from Benton. Those detectives told Winnsboro police that the girl had been taken on Sunday, and might possibly be headed to the Winnsboro area.

Captain Chris Hill with Winnsboro police said that officers waited in an unmarked car in the parking lot of Trinity Mission Health and Rehab on East Coke Road. When a car matching the description of the car missing from Arkansas arrived, the little girl got out, and police were able to take her and the female driver of the car into custody.

"We made sure they parked safely and then we pulled up and blocked them in. The child got out, the child was out and the adult got out of the vehicle and the maternal grandmother was there and the child saw her maternal grandmother and ran to her," said Hill.

The little girl was in good condition, and is now in the custody of her maternal grandmother, who was also in Winnsboro Tuesday when the car arrived.

Hill said the driver of the car is from Denison, TX, and that's where she met the two suspects accused of taking the girl from Arkansas. Tuesday morning, the two suspects told the woman to take the car and the girl to Winnsboro.

“It was apparent that she didn’t know everything that was going on. It was very possible that she was for lack of a better word, duped into bringing the girl here. I think she thought she was doing a good deed by doing this, not getting involved in a federal offense,” Hill said.

Winnsboro police say the woman is a person of interest, but she was not arrested or charged, because she did not commit a crime in Winnsboro or Wood County.

Bunievatz fiance, Tobie Phillips, 38, is still being sought by police and has an active warrant for her arrest.

The U.S. Marshal's Office is now investigating the case. Additional charges could be forthcoming.

Anybody with information related to this case is encouraged to contact the Benton Police Department at 501-778-1171 or 501-315-TIPS. Individuals also may send an anonymous crime tip about this incident to CRIMES (274637) with the keyword BNPD in the body of the text or go to www.crimereports.com to leave a tip.

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